Estep, Elks out­last Bull­dogs to win 2A East Re­gion Fi­nal

Ju­nior RB rushes for 223 yards and 4 TDs in first half as Elk­ton avenges last year’s loss to North Caro­line

Cecil Whig - - SPORTS - By JOR­DAN SCHATZ

jschatz@ce­cil­whig.com

— Raiquon Estep piled up four touch­downs and 223 yards rush­ing on 17 first-half car­ries as Elk­ton rolled out to a five-score lead at half­time that would nor­mally prove fa­tal for most op­po­nents. But what had the mak­ings of a blowout evolved into a nail-bit­ing

ELK­TON

fin­ish af­ter North Caro­line cut down the deficit to just 13 points with nine sec­onds re­main­ing in the third quar­ter.

The Golden Elks re­sponded with a clock-eat­ing drive that ate up six min­utes, 23 sec­onds of the fi­nal frame, and their de­fense pro­duced a turnover on downs on the en­su­ing pos­ses­sion as third-seeded Elk­ton held on for a wild 33- 20 vic­tory Fri­day over vis­it­ing No. 4 North Caro­line in the 2A East Re­gion fi­nal, pro­pel­ling the Ce­cil County squad to the state foot­ball semi­fi­nals for the first time since 2012.

The Elks (11-1) will travel to face Calvert next Fri­day, when a ticket to the state cham­pi­onship game will be on the line.

“You go into half­time up 33-0, what we’re gen­er­ally do­ing are half­time

on Fri­day, pil­ing up nearly 400 yards of of­fense in the first half alone.

Dur­ing the post-game hud­dle, the coaches and play­ers rec­og­nized in­di­vid­ual per­form­ers. While Ray Estep’s record-set­ting night re­ceived an ob­vi­ous spot­light, he im­me­di­ately de­ferred credit with an en­thu­si­as­tic shout of “O-line!” Feeney fol­lowed by rec­og­niz­ing se­nior line­man and cap­tain, Mar­quis Byrd. The play­ers cheered even louder for him than they did for Estep, which spoke to his lead­er­ship and the many op­por­tu­ni­ties his crew opened up for Estep and quar­ter­back Jack­son Ar­goe.

“The o-line stepped up to­day and did what they had to do,” Byrd said. “They ex­e­cuted and made sure Ray got out in the open.”

Byrd got to con­tribute even more than usual, as he snagged a Bull­dog fum­ble late in the first quar­ter. It was one of two key turnovers by the de­fense that kept North Caro­line off the board in the first half. Play­ers for Elk­ton cel­e­brate af­ter de­feat­ing vis­it­ing North Caro­line 33-20 on Fri­day to win the 2A East Re­gion cham­pi­onship.

“They came out swing­ing in the sec­ond half, but the de­fense fought and didn’t give up any­more scores than we needed to

give up. I’m proud of my de­fense and proud of this whole team for what we be­came.”

Scud­eri ar­guably en­joyed the

win more than any­one else on the field, as he had to watch last year’s ti­tle game from the side­line.

“My knee got in­fected the night be­fore the game,” he said. “It was Thurs­day night and I called Coach at 2 o’clock in the morn­ing and was like, ‘I can’t walk.’ That kind of sucked, but it felt great to get back out here and re­deem my­self, and the rest of us re­deemed our­selves.”

Iron­i­cally, the Elks’ most suc­cess­ful drive of the night didn’t yield them any points. When they fi­nally got the ball af­ter the Bull­dogs surged back into the game with a 20-point third quar­ter, they held onto it for more than six min­utes. It was the type of stand Elk­ton might not have made ear­lier in the sea­son.

“It took 6-7 weeks for ev­ery­thing to mesh,” Feeney said. “Now they know and it’s fun to watch.”

Elk­ton last hoisted the re­gion cham­pi­onship plaque in 2012, so this is a new ex­pe­ri­ence for ev­ery player on the team. It’s back to work on Mon­day with just two wins to go for a state ti­tle, but the Elks were thrilled to trade a dis­ap­point­ing bus ride for a cel­e­bra­tion with their fans.

“I feel like I’m in the NFL, it’s the most amaz­ing feel­ing,” Byrd said with a big smile. “We’re hun­gry, we’re hum­bled and we’re ready.”

CE­CIL WHIG PHOTO BY SEAN GRO­GAN

Ju­nior run­ning back Raiquon Estep rushed for 223 yards and four touch­downs in the first half to help lead third-seeded Elk­ton to a 33-20 vic­tory over vis­it­ing No. 4 North Caro­line in the 2A East Re­gion Fi­nal on Fri­day,

CE­CIL WHIG PHOTO BY SEAN GRO­GAN

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